The feeling of loss has weighed heavily over Texas these past couple of weeks, and over the world this past year. The looming pain of grief leaves us dumbfounded as we figure out how to go about living when there’s so much loss happening in the world.
The beauty and ugliness of life is that we never know when our time will come- or the time of those around us. We all know that death is inevitable, but dying when we’re old almost seems like a God given right, because that’s the way it “should” be. It’s the way of nature. So, when someone passes unexpectedly- before we can declare, “they lived a good life,” it feels like the world has betrayed us.
Maybe you never got the chance to say goodbye, maybe you never got to fulfill the dreams you had laid out together, and now the dreams you hoped for together are the nightmares that you bear.
How you handle grief can depend greatly on the situation that caused it. We’ll look at a few scenarios and how you can help yourself or someone else with their specific type of grief:
The expectations that you have are part of what makes loss so hard when someone dies before their time. You create the moments in your mind that you want to experience with your little one before they are able to live those moments themselves.
Thoughts of their first day of school, graduation, their first heartbreak, walking them down the aisle, these are the created memories that keep breaking your heart. All of the things that could have been that never came to fruition.
Not only did you lose the connection with your child, but you lost the dreams that would come with their birth.
One therapeutic technique for coping with miscarriage is to create a grief ritual. A grief ritual looks different for everyone, but the basis of the idea is that it helps you acknowledge your loss. This can mean you create a song, paint a photo, take moments of silence every day, or have a specific time where you talk with a loved one about the feelings surrounding your loss.
This won’t make the pain go away completely, but with time it will help you acknowledge the loss, the feelings, and the ways that you can move forward.
Coping with the grief that follows the loss in a traumatic event is two fold. Not only are you learning to cope with the trauma, but you’re also having to cope with the grief as well. During this type of grieving it’s important to remember to have patience with yourself.
You may be dealing with nightmares and memories both good and bad. You’re remembering the love you have for the person that was lost as well as the haunting thoughts surrounding the event. You may be experiencing guilt about how you could have prevented it, fear that somehow it could have been avoided, or other thoughts about the avoidance of the event.
Some people cope with feelings of numbness and disbelief, which is a normal part of a traumatic event because eventually you will start to replay the event in your mind and feel the emotions that come with that.
It’s okay that you’re doing this, it’s allowing your mind to take in the reality of death. But please remember that replaying the event in small amounts is more beneficial so that you don’t overload yourself with emotions. Replaying the event will help you come to terms with what happened, it will help you see things from other perspectives, and it will start the process of working through your emotions.
Grieving after you know without a doubt that someone is gone is difficult in and of itself, but grieving when you are unsure what exactly happened to a person is an entirely different situation.
There are two main types of ambiguous loss. One is psychological loss with physical presence (in the case of dementia, addictions, injuries, etc.) or there is physical loss with a psychological presence (Divorce, individuals missing in action, etc.).
The pain that you experience with ambiguous loss is different compared to the normal grieving process. Your heart may be torn between the hope that someone is still okay and the idea that in reality they may not be. You may grieve the thought that the person you love will no longer be the same as how you once knew them.
The hard part is that there’s no closure with ambiguous loss. It’s almost as if your grieving process is frozen in time because your mind doesn’t get to reach the conclusion that others get to have. It’s almost as if you’re constantly waiting for that person to finally return and take the role they once held in your life.
The unknown is a scary place for anyone to rest in, so how do you go about grieving when there is no final resolution?
The roles of relationships can change when you’ve experienced ambiguous loss where the person is physically present but not mentally. For example, maybe your friend used to be your go-to bowling buddy, but now they may need to be your go-to drawing buddy instead. Allowing them to hold some space in your life even though it looks differently can help them feel better too.
Allowing yourself to dream of a life moving forward can help when the person is no longer physically there. Having something to look forward to can help your mind stay at ease and out of the cycles of continuous rumination. Some people cope well by sensing someone’s spirit is still with them or by remembering the beautiful moments that you once experienced together. Helping that person live on in your joy can help you live on and move forward as well.
Know that you aren’t alone in this experience. You may feel lonely, scared, unmotivated, and at a loss. But, there is support for you. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, find a local grief support group, and take part in your own personal therapy to help you work through your loss.